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Star Trek: Discovery Has Made The Federation Dangerously Powerful

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Star Trek: Discovery season 3 has made the Federation dangerously powerful. The third season of Star Trek: Discovery saw the crew of the USS Discovery catapulted into a dystopian future where the Federation had essentially collapsed. The galaxy had been plunged into crisis by a mysterious event known as the Burn, in which almost all dilithium in the galaxy was suddenly rendered inert. Dilithium is used in warp engines to regulate the matter/anti-matter collision, and the sudden disruption led to countless starships detonating. With dilithium scarce after the Burn, and many fearful of a repeat event, interstellar travel became much more difficult - and galactic powers crumbled.

The crew of the USS Discovery eventually found their way to the remnant of the Federation, a depleted and beleaguered galactic power. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 saw them work to rebuild the Federation, with Burnham in particular recognizing how important it was they learned the cause of the Burn so the galaxy could move on. By the end of the season, Burnham had succeeded in her mission and the Federation was presented with a new source of dilithium. The USS Discovery has begun distributing this dilithium to long-lost Federation outposts across the galaxy, and the Federation is ascendant once again.

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 may have come to an optimistic end, but in fact Burnham's success may have some very dangerous repercussions. Burnham is a "True Believer," but she has just made the Federation far too powerful in a post-Burn galaxy.

The Federation Is Now The Only Source Of Dilithium

According to Star Trek: Discovery, dilithium was becoming scarce even before the Burn happened. The best Federation scientists were desperately attempting to come up with alternatives for galactic travel, but they had been unsuccessful - sometimes catastrophically so. And then the Burn happened, and most of the dilithium in the galaxy was rendered spontaneously inert. It's important to remember the Burn didn't just affect dilithium in starship engine, but also in the remaining mines and quarries scattered across the galaxy. Dilithium suddenly became rare, and galactic empires and alliances became pretty much impossible to maintain.

But the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 finale saw the Federation discover the planet Theta Zeta, a harsh planet hidden within the inhospitable Verubin Nebula. This was actually the source of the Burn, for a Kelpien child named Su'Kal had inadvertently become bonded with the dilithium of Theta Zeta, and his anguish at his mother's death led to a psychic keen of pain that echoed through subspace across the galaxy. The crew of the USS Discovery rescued Su'Kal from Theta Zeta, thereby meaning the threat of another Burn is now over. They then presented the Federation with the co-ordinates of the dilithium-rich planet whose very existence had previously been concealed.

This discovery has a dramatic impact on the balance of power across the galaxy. The Burn led to the decline and collapse of all galactic powers, for it was impossible for anyone to possess enough dilithium to control a large sector of space. Even the Emerald Chain was running out by the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 3. Now, with their dilithium reserves boosted by the phenomenal amount of dilithium found on Theta Zeta, the Federation is able to establish itself as the only galactic power. The final scenes revealed Starfleet is sending dilithium to former member worlds and outposts, but it's reasonable to assume there will be strings attached - that they will want recipients of dilithium to either join, or befriend, the Federation.

The Federation Also Has The Spore Drive

But the Federation now has another advantage thanks to the USS Discovery; the spore drive, which allows ships to instantaneously travel across the galaxy through the mycelial network. This technology was developed during the Klingon War long before the original Star Trek series, but it was lost when the USS Discovery was blasted into the future. The Federation of the 32nd century immediately saw the potential of the spore drive, with Admiral Vance classifying the USS Discovery as an instant response vessel in case of emergency. But there was initially no way to replicate the spore drive, simply because Stamets - who had modified his own DNA with that of a tardrigrade - was the only one who could pilot the USS Discovery.

The Star Trek: Discovery season 3 finale changed that, however, revealing the empath Booker can bond with the spores and navigate through the mycelial network as well. Empaths are rare among Booker's race, the Kwejians, but there are certainly only others who possess the same power - including Booker's old friend Kyheem, introduced in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 8. That means the Federation will surely be approaching the Kwejians and asking if any of their empaths will be willing to serve as navigators. If any are, then Starfleet will be able to modify other starships and add spore drives, with a Kewjian serving on board. No doubt Starfleet scientists would be experimenting with other empaths, such as the Betazoids, as well.

This is an even greater advantage to dilithium, because it secures the long-term future of the Federation. Dilithium is an unsustainable resource, simply because the Federation is using the last known major dilithium mine in the galaxy. But the Federation - unique in the entire cosmos - are aware there is an alternative. They would be wise to keep the spore drive secret for now, explaining why the USS Discovery is once again traveling through warp rather than using the mycelial network in the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 finale's last moments. But, if they succeed in outfitting a number of starships with spore drives, they will be able to have a small fleet serving as an instant response force - a fleet that can jump from one corner of the galaxy to another in a matter of moments. If other races of empaths are indeed able to navigate like the Kwejians, then the future of the Federation is secured, and no other power can compete with them.

It is tempting to assume this is all a good thing, and certainly that is the view Michael Burnham would take. But power corrupts, as the old adage says, and Star Trek: Discovery has always been an exploration of just what it means to be the Federation. There will undoubtedly still be members of the Federation, even at a high level, who are tempted to use their new galactic dominance for ill. What is more, as the Federation expands once again and other races join out of self-interest simply in order to access dilithium, the odds rise that this power will be used wrongly. Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery may well once again find themselves fighting for the soul of the Federation in Star Trek: Discovery season 4.
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